How to get the miles in for the marathon

For the 20,000 runners in the Dublin Marathon, training is now all about ‘the long run’

Marathon first-timers can look forward to the achievement of the longest run of their life every weekend for the next two months.

Marathon first-timers can look forward to the achievement of the longest run of their life every weekend for the next two months.

 

While many of us enjoy a relaxed and routine-free August, there is a large group of people who are forgoing their lazy summer weekends for sensible bedtimes, healthy dinners and early weekend alarm calls.

For the 20,000 runners who have secured a place in the sold-out Dublin Marathon, weekends are now centred around “the long run”; the cornerstone of marathon training.

These lucky marathoners-in-training have a big autumn ahead. Their long run will build up to close to 20 miles over the coming months. 

Building your ritual

Everyone has their own ritual and routine but for most runners the long run is more than just a morning out. The preparations kick-off midweek as runners plan their route and weekend schedule. Closer to the weekend thoughts turn to hydration and the right dinner and breakfast to fuel the run.

The night before the run sees the clothes being laid out and the batteries being charged on the various running gadgets. Long-run morning is carefully planned to ensure breakfast, toilet and run start co-ordinate perfectly.

Competitors at the start of the Dublin Marathon last year. Thousands of runners are preparing ahead of the event in October. Photograph: Cody Glenn/Sportsfile
Competitors at the start of the Dublin Marathon last year. Thousands of runners are preparing ahead of the event in October. Photograph: Cody Glenn/Sportsfile

Once the run itself is complete, next comes the refuelling, the stretching and maybe even an ice-bath or nap. And all that is before the post-run analysis.

The weekly highlight

It may be hard to see the attraction in spending a morning pounding the pavements and the rest of the week preparing and recovering. However, if you have been through the marathon before, you will know that there is something strangely addictive and satisfying about the weekend long run.

Chatting to my 2016 marathon students, what they miss most about marathon training is the routine of the long run, the shared stories and miles with fellow runners, the sense of satisfaction of completing the distance and the adventures and alternative routes they travelled. Memories are truly made on these long runs.

Lucky first-timers

Every marathoner is a little jealous of a marathon first-timer. These runners can look forward to the achievement of the longest run of their life every weekend for the next two months. There is a lot of satisfaction in that.

Each of these mini-milestones is motivating and encouraging and worth celebrating it itself. If you are marathon first-timer, you are in for a treat both in training but especially on race day. The city comes alive and the enthusiasm of the crowd will carry you along the miles where you may doubt yourself.

Take one week at a time

It is important, however, not to look too far forward to race day. Every long run is a stepping stone to get you to next week and ultimately to the marathon distance in good shape.

Try not to get overwhelmed. There is still plenty time to build mileage gradually. Make sure you are following a good training plan and only focus on the week that you are in. Running 20 miles in mid-September might seem impossible right now, but when the time comes you will be ready. Aim to compete this week’s long run successfully. Next week 20 miles will seem a little closer.  

Experienced marathoners

If you already have a marathon medal, you know what lies ahead between now and the finish line. Although you won’t be running the longest run of your life every weekend, you do have the benefit of experience.

You know what works for your stomach, your ideal marathon starting pace and which shorts don’t chafe. All these valuable lessons learned give you a head start on the first-timers. But having the medal already can also make you complacent about training. It is often harder to train for a marathon that’s not your first.

Consider running with a group or a partner if you are struggling to train alone
Consider running with a group or a partner if you are struggling to train alone

Motivation can be an issue as the excitement, fear and anticipation may not be as high as first time around. You may possibly have now a time target and put more pressure on yourself than last time around.

Weekly experiment

The success or otherwise of your weekly long run affects your mindset for the week ahead, as well as your long-term race day success. Prepare well so you set yourself up for a good long run each weekend. Be conservative with your pace.

If you are not enjoying the long runs, slow down. Time on your feet is more important than speed in these runs. Consider training with a group or a training partner if you are struggling to train alone. Each long run should build your confidence for the week ahead rather than build doubt in your ability.

You will learn something from each long run. Make all your mistakes in training so that you can move towards race day knowing more about your body, your fuelling strategy and what to expect on the day.

Savour the long runs

Do the ground work well and on marathon day you can relax and enjoy knowing you have done all you can. Your marathon is a whole lot more than just race day. Don’t wish away these long weekend runs. Whether it’s your first or fifteenth marathon, you are one of the lucky ones. Savour every training run. Train for this marathon like it is going to be your last one. Appreciate every run, even the runs that don’t go to plan for those are the ones you learn the most from.

Mary Jennings is founder and running coach with ForgetTheGym.ie. Mary trains beginners and marathoners and everyone in between to enjoy running and stay injury free. Mary is also the creator of all our Irish Times Get Running programmes – Beginners Get Running, Get Running 10k and Get Running Stay Running.

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